Flavor Profile: Classic French Cuisine

frenchHere are some basic spices and herbs used in French cooking.  This is just a starting point and some good tips.  Ultimately, cook what you like and what tastes good to YOU!

Poultry Spices
Salt and pepper are the primary spices in the vast majority of French cooking. Chicken dishes are prepared most often with mustard, paprika, garlic, ginger, thyme, basil, bay leaf, and cayenne pepper. Mustard also rates high in turkey dishes, along with garlic and parsley. Cumin is an important seasoning for orange duck.

Red-Meat Spices
Beef French-style invariably is seasoned with bouquet garni, which is a bundle of herbs including bay leaf, parsley and thyme; other popular spices are garlic, rosemary, ginger, saffron and mustard. Lamb is often prepared with cumin, cayenne, tarragon, mint, thyme, bay leaf, basil, tarragon, parsley, ginger, coriander and cloves. Roast pork recipes include laurel and nutmeg.

Seafood Spices
Fish dishes are typically prepared with paprika, saffron and ginger. Scallops, a favorite seafood, are cooked with basil, thyme, white pepper and garlic. Herbs de provence are spice mixtures in two varieties often used in cooking seafood: either thyme, marjoram, rosemary and savory, or tarragon, chervil, fennel and lavender.

Vegetable Spices
Zucchinis and other squash in French cooking are often seasoned with combinations of clove, thyme, basil, garlic, nutmeg, parsley and chives. Thyme and bay leaf are favored for potatoes, and many tomato-based dishes rely on garlic, parsley, brewer’s yeast, oregano, thyme and basil.

Spices for Fruit
Various fruits are used for sauces and deserts. Favored spices include mint and vanilla. Bananas are cooked with ginger and rum extract.  In Canadian/American-French cooking, cinnamon is often used with apples, but this is not so in traditional French cuisine.

Dessert Spices
From chocolate cakes to fruit crumbles, French desserts are flavored with many spices. These include: vanilla, almond extract, lemon and orange zest, nutmeg, cardamom, salt–and, surprisingly, pepper.

Bouquet Garni
A French herbal mixture. It consists of a collection of herbs, gathered together and tied into a bundle or sachet in cheesecloth, or directly tied together when using fresh herbs. It is used to enhance the flavor of stews, broths or stocks

Bouquet Garni

Bouquet Garni ~ a French herbal mixture. It consists of a collection of herbs, gathered together and tied into a bundle or sachet in cheesecloth, or directly tied together when using fresh herbs. It is used to enhance the flavor of stews, broths or stocks. There are two versions – a dried version and a fresh version.

Fresh Version:Bouquet_garni_p1150476_extracted
1. Gather together fresh herbs, making sure they have long stems.
For a traditional bouquet garni, the herbs should consist of 3 sprigs of parsley, 2 sprigs of thyme and 1 bay leaf. (2 sprigs of fresh rosemary is optional)
2. Tie the bunch together with kitchen twine and leave a tail that you can use to haul the bunch in and out of your pot.

Dried Version:
1. Gather together dried herbs.bouquet garni
Mix together 1 tablespoon parsley, 1 teaspoon thyme and 1 bay leaf. (1 teaspoon of rosemary is optional.)
2. Wrap in a cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine, again leaving some length for hauling in
out of the pot.

 

How to use a bouquet garni:
These can be used in making soups, stocks and sauces. Place the bouquet in the liquid at the beginning of cooking and leave in until right before serving. Some classic French dishes that these are used in include:

• French onion soup
• Brown Windsor soup
• Pot au feu
• Poule au pot
• Carbonnade flamande
• Lapin chasseur
• Blanquette de veau
• Ossobuco
• Bouillabaisse
• Court-bouillon
• Boeuf bourguignon
• Cassoulet

Remember: there is no generic recipe for bouquet garni, but most recipes include parsley, thyme and bay leaf. Depending on the recipe, the bouquet garni may also include basil, burnet, chervil, rosemary, peppercorns, savory and tarragon. Vegetables such as carrot, celery (leaves and stems) celeriac, leek, onion and parsley root are sometimes included in the bouquet. You can feel free to use whatever you’d like to infuse flavor in your soup, stock or sauce depending on your taste– feel free to improvise!

Provence Potato Gratin

Thanks to Cooking.com for the following recipe!

Provence Potato Gratin

Contributed By: Jeanne
Active Time:  1 Hour
Total Time:  2 Hours
A lovely side potato dish to accompany Daube du Bouef or other beef dish. Add a Caprese Salad, a green vegetable of choice and a rich red wine for an elegant dinner.

INGREDIENTS

Yukon Gold, Red or White Potatoes, amount depending upon number of servings you want.
Creme Fraiche (made with 2 cups heavy cream, 2 cups sour cream)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS

Make Creme Fraiche several days ahead in a crockery bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 24 to 36 hours to thicken. When it reaches desired thickness, refrigerate until ready to use.
Peel and slice potatoes. Layer in buttered shallow casserole dish – potatoes, creme fraiche, lightly salt and pepper on each layer. Bake, uncovered in 350 degree oven for approximately 2 hours or until tender.